Not a US Citizen? Here's How You Can Get Health Insurance

Published on
January 25, 2024
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In a perfect world, every person in the United States would have affordable health insurance coverage. We’re not there yet, but we’re closer than you might think. In 2023, about twice as many lawfully present immigrant adults were uninsured in comparison to citizens. However, contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a citizen to benefit from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Many residents have health insurance options today that were unavailable in the past. Let’s break down how to access your best healthcare options regardless of your immigration status.

If you’re lawfully present in the US, you’re eligible for Obamacare

About one million people each year are granted lawful permanent residence in the US. If you’re one of them, you can apply for any available health insurance plans during open enrollment, just like citizens. This includes health employer-sponsored insurance plans and plans purchased through an insurance marketplace like HealthBird.

A lawfully present immigrant includes anyone who has:

As long as you meet one or more of these qualifications, currently live in the US, are not incarcerated, and are not covered by Medicare, you can sign up for insurance through any Health Insurance Marketplace during open enrollment.

The only exception to this rule are DACA recipients. Currently, even though they are considered lawfully present during their deferred action period, they aren’t eligible to enroll in health coverage. The Biden administration is working to change that, so it’s possible that DACA recipients may be eligible during future open enrollment periods.

Federally funded programs have a few more health coverage eligibility requirements

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are options for any immigrants who have held “qualified” status for at least five years. Veterans, active duty military and their families, and refugees are still eligible without the five-year wait period.

New immigrants aren’t eligible for Medicare no matter their age. If an immigrant or their spouse has worked in a job that paid Medicare payroll taxes for a minimum of 10 years, they can apply for Medicare Part A as soon as they turn 65.

While you’re waiting for a green card, immigrants have a few options

If you’ve applied for a green card but you’re still waiting on it, you’re considered a visitor to the US. It can take an average of 7 to 33 months to obtain a green card in the US, but until you get that card, you won’t qualify for Obamacare.

You can, however, sign up for a visitor insurance plan. Visitor medical insurance plans offer temporary, short-term insurance plans for up to about a year, and many plans can be extended for a second year. It’s more expensive than Obamacare, but it’s a good insurance option for immigrants waiting for a green card.

If you’re an undocumented immigrant, know your healthcare options

Undocumented individuals are not considered lawful US residents, so they’re not eligible for federally funded programs like Affordable Care Act marketplaces and Medicare. Undocumented persons still have options, however. If you’re undocumented, you can still do the following:

Apply for health insurance on behalf of eligible dependents

If you aren’t a lawful resident but your children are, you can still enroll them in a health insurance plan during open enrollment even though you’re ineligible yourself.

Visit low-cost community health clinics

Check for a local health clinic in your area through a directory of national free clinics or a state-specific community clinic list. These are designed to treat everyone who needs care, including undocumented immigrants and individuals without health insurance.

Acquire emergency medical treatment

All hospitals and emergency centers are legally required to treat and stabilize any patience who need emergency medical care, even if they are unable to pay. This includes undocumented immigrants.

Sign up for unsubsidized private health insurance

Some health insurance companies may offer private health insurance coverage for undocumented immigrants depending on their country of origin

In 2022, California made a groundbreaking law regarding immigrant health insurance

California became the first US state to offer state-funded health insurance coverage to undocumented immigrants. The new eligibility rules kicked in as of January 2024, offering an expanded Medi-Cal program to almost all eligible state residents, undocumented immigrants included. Other Medi-Cal eligibility rules still apply, but if you live in California, you can contact our team to see if you qualify.

HealthBird Member Concierge
(833) 384-2473

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